I am not a plastic bag – version 2.0


A year I wrote a post making fun of the global scramble to get one of those Anya Hindmarch’s limited edition "I am not a plastic bag" bags.  The campaign’s intention was entirely laudable, though that stampede it created, like the near riot in a Hong Kong mall for example, was indeed ripe for ridicule.  Fast forward to the present day, the reusable bag trend is hotter than ever.  More and more stores are giving up bags altogether while others give shoppers an incentive like a discount or coupons to bring your own bags.

I’m in the market for some new bags myself, and found quite a few that are so enticing I simply must share with you here.  Just because we’ve gone eco around here doesn’t mean we’re stuck with unfashionable hemp bags in the shade of Maoist gray.  (Though I’ve just found that even hemp can be hip now, go figure.)

The first place I looked was Reisenthel, the fabulous German maker of all things to carry other things with.  (Can you come up with a better description for them?  I certainly couldn’t.)  They are my favorite, and everything I’ve bought from them have been practically indestructible.  I’m still in love with the basket I got from Frankfurt years ago, though David has taken it over and turned my hip German basket into his foraging basket.  What’s a girl to do but go shopping anew?  Here darling, twist my arm.

Lucky for me, I don’t need to hop a flight to Frankfurt–though one to Paris is in my rather immediate future–because Amazon now carries a whole bunch of Reisenthel products.


I’m very tempted to replace my stolen basket with a more psychedelic version of the same model.  Very tempted.  But then again I’m also quite struck by a tote bag made with the same material.  It looks very sturdy and seems to be able to handle a big load of groceries that I somehow end up with no matter how often I go to the stores.  It’s also quite pretty, don’t you think?   That tote also comes in a little bit smaller size and in a design that’s just a tiny bit less loud (in a smaller size as well).  To each his bag, I say.


I also like this one with separate pockets for bottles. Don’t you sometimes buy wines and other bottled things?  If you’re walking more than a few blocks home this might be handy.  Then again if you’ve really got a distance to haul your groceries you might want to consider this baby: it folds into a neat, small-ish package but opens up into a gigantic shopping bag with wheels.  French shoppers–chic girls, hot boys, cranky old ladies (and gentlemen) alike–have been marketing with these wheelies for ages.  Perhaps it’s time we catch up?  Our back will thank us.


If you really want a grocery bag that can fold into practically nothing, a small enough package so you can leave one at the bottom of your everyday bag ready for an impromptu market trip?  There are two brands I recommend wholeheartedly.  They are not Reisenthel, but they are no less cute and arguably more practical for this scenario.  The first is made by Baggu, and fold into a small square that fits perfectly in its own neat pouch.  The other is made by Flip & Tumble, and rolls into a cute little ball when not in use, which means it doubles as a ball toy to toss around when you are bored.  Might come in handy if you think about it.  They both have long and wide handle so you can carry them or put them over your shoulder to lessen the load.  Nice.


Now, if you think you’re home free.  Think again.  We’re not quite done here yet.  Do you ever wonder if it’s all moot when you bring your own bags to the store and then end up using a whole bunch of plastic bags in the produce isles for salad greens and fruits?  What’s the alternative though?  Not using separate bags for these delicate produce is not exactly a viable choice, since you will likely end up with an accidental purée at the bottom of your nice Reisenthel grocery tote.  After looking around a while, I think I’ve finally found a solution.  You can get one of these cotton bags, a mesh one or just a simple lightweight one.  They are about the same size as the standard grocery story plastic bags, but instead of being tossed out after one use, you can reuse them and wash them when they get dirty.  Fabulous, yes? 

Another alternative, Evert-Fresh Bag, is a little high-tech-y.  I’ve bought these bags before from a Japanese grocery store.  They’re made of plastic, yes, but they are reusable and they have an added value of extending the life of your produce.  The idea is pretty simple, the bags absorb ethelyn gas emit by fruits and veggies as they ripen, and in so doing retard the maturing process.  Your produce lasts longer, you waste less, and the bags can be reused up to ten times. 

Here you go, you’re all set for your next visit to the grocery store or, better yet, your local farmers market.  Have fun shopping!

P.S. I’m sure you’ve got your own favorite bags.  If there’s one I missed or any I simply must know about, please do tell!

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29 Responses to “I am not a plastic bag – version 2.0

  • stickyfingers said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 4:39am

    In Melbourne, Australia, the eco bag is the norm. It’s almost as though bachelors are the only ones who don’t shop with them. I don’t think we care whether they are pretty or not, we’re proud that we are reducing landfill and methane production amongst other things by using them.
    We have chiller eco bags, some just for bottles and fabulous little segmented bags made from recycled materials for carrying those paper takeaway coffee cups back to the office. A friend of mine has over 60 different styles. I also love my Miso Pretty polypropylene shopper from BlueQ.com
    Looking around the streets now it’s as though everyone in the inner city is eschewing the car and using shopping jeeps with eco bags to go to the shops or market – and the Farmers Markets are just bustling with them. Bring it on!

  • nicole said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 4:42am

    great post, so helpful, thanks to you to for leading the way to eco-chic on the food wires…

  • Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 7:06am

    I bought a big order of Flip & Tumble bags and have been giving them to everyone here in Italy (they love them!) but I’m going to check out Baggu, too, since it’s time for a re-order! Thanks, Pim.

  • Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 7:08am

    Just a question – can you wear the Baggu on your shoulder? It’s hard to tell from the pictures and that’s a big plus for me with the F&T bags.

  • oakley said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 8:04am

    I have freebie bags all over the place plus a few Trader Joe’s ones I bought a while ago. We love the fact that we don’t have to throw out plastic bags any more. I try not to use the produce little plastic bags, but for some messier items, I just have to.
    The only store we’d welcome the bags are Target. Their bags make the best lining for small trashcans around the house

  • Pim said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 9:16am

    @Sara Yes, the handle on the Baggu bags are long enough to put over your shoulder. I’m with you on it being a big plus.
    @Oakley Try the Evert Fresh bags, you’ll like them.

  • Greg said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 9:24am

    I love the look of the Reisenthal bags, but I don’t own any. I stick with cotton canvas bags as they seem to carry forward the idea of limiting pollution. I’m not a scientist, but it seems like two steps forward, one step back if you are replacing one bag of man made, chemical-based material with another (although longer lasting). Both will end up not degrading in a landfill and I would guess both produce more pollution during the manufacturing process. Maybe there’s an argument to be made for these synthetic fabrics? Maybe the process of turning cotton in to fabric is equally nasty? Would love to hear from anyone who knows about this aspect of reusable bags.

  • marisa said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 10:17am

    @oakely You are so right about the Target bags – they are great! We use them for scooping cat-litter into.
    I keep expecting them to switch to something cheaper, thinner, and less sturdy (or to start charging for the bags), but so far so good…

  • sam said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 11:53am

    Warning! I don’t recommend the trolley bag above (I have the orange one pictured). The handle is too short and it is cumbersome to roll because of that, plus it quickly became all scuffed up and grubby with holes in it.
    It doesn’t look anywhere near as cool , but I replaced it with a cooler on wheels from Costco. nearly every week somebody stops and remarks on how coll (groan) it is or to ask me where I got it from.

  • Catty said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 11:59am

    I know this bag and campaign also. I didn’t know anything about that before, but my japanese colleague came to Dublin. In that time, this bag was sold. His wife asked him to buy making a queue because she couldn’t buy it in Japan. It’s so meaningful campaign that everybody should keep and remember it.

  • Dr. Biggles said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 1:41pm

    Yeah, I knew it had ‘sploded cause my local El Salvadorean Market gives them out. Omar was so cool about it, talking about saving the environment and we should all do our part. His market is about the size of my tiny little house, but he’s right there.
    I’m not too worried about how cool they look. I’m so stunning that the bag’s Cool Factor goes up when in my presence anyway.

  • Adriene said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 2:46pm

    I bought some great Acme bags from Reusablebags.com a few years ago, and they’re still like new. That website has tons of brands and styles to choose from, plus you can get those those cotton produce bags and the Evert-Fresh bags there too. Which reminds me, it might be time to get another bag of the Evert-Fresh. It’s been almost two years since I got my first bag and I’m almost out of fresh bags now. Good deal. Those things really work!

  • Becky said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 3:14pm

    what a coincidence! i just ordered a pair of baggus yesterday, mainly because they seemed the most lightweight and versatile out of all the options i’d seen. i’m excited to go shopping with them soon!

  • Spandrel Studios said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 6:51pm

    This weekend, I happened upon this Envirosax bag which is handy for keeping inside my purse – I love the colors.

  • akatsuki said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 8:47pm

    I’m a fan of the Reisenthel trolley bag. As a previous poster mentioned, the handle can be too short for people of “normal” height. But as a 5’5″ Asian gal, it fits me pretty well.
    My other favourite canvas bags are sold by Whole Foods. They have hand-carrying straps as well as a longer strap that goes over the shoulder. They’re not as pretty though.

  • Stacey said:
    July 1st, 2008 at 9:02pm

    Great bags, thanks for all the info! <

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